Whitehot Magazine

November 2010, Interview with Kristen Morgin

Kristen Morgin, "New York Be Nice" (installation view), 2010
Courtesy, the artist and Zach Feuer Gallery, New York

Interview with Kristen Morgin

Kristen Morgin’s sculptures are created from fired and unfired clay, wood and wire. They feature objects in various states of decomposition. Her subjects evoke nostalgia for something lost, but avoid sentimentality through their eroding surfaces, absent parts and fragile structures which remind us not only of the past but also the reality of the present. They are at once vulnerable and strong, mortal but refusing to let death overcome them. A few days before her first solo show at Zach Feuer Gallery, in New York Kristen spoke with me, about the various influences leading up to her most recent body of work.

Katherine Mangiardi: In your work you seem to be recovering objects from the past. Are these objects from your own history?

Kristen Morgin: I originally started making objects to understand something I felt outside of. I don’t fit in with cultures in general and certain people. With the cars I wanted to understand car culture, to get something I felt outside of and engage in it. The best way I can describe it is when I was a kid for a brief period I really wanted a dog, begged my parents for one and when they said no instead of being upset I went to the garage and made one out of some wood. I put a leash on it, walked it and slept with it for a day. Once I had the thing I no longer needed it. I create things I want to get close to, experience it by the making and then move on to the next thing.

Mangiardi: So you always choose objects that are unfamiliar to you?

Morgin: I started out that way but recently I began to create pieces from things I already know I like and live with, tributary objects that look like their model. The first piece I did like this was a Monopoly game I had at home. I wanted to take this mass produced item and make it one of a kind. When I was creating it I was thinking about my own history with the game. It occurred to me that the goal was to annihilate your component and take all their assets.

Mangiardi: In the Repeating Table, a piece composed of toys, books and comics, you exhibit your remakes of the objects next to their originals. Why show the models?

Morgin: Relationships started to happen when I was making work for the table. Sometimes the objects next to their models are like a longtime married couple that need each other and bring out the best in one another. At other times there is a confrontation and one piece overtakes the other. I liked these conversations and it brought a new dialogue to the work.


Kristen Morgin, "The Repeating Table", 2010
Wood, books, toys, records with clay painted counterparts, 45 x 68 x 108 inches
Courtesy, the artist


Mangiardi: Many of the objects you recreate are associated with 1930s and 1940s Americana. Where does this nostalgia come from?

Morgin: My grandfather was this incredible character. He was born in Italy, came to America at 14, fought in WWII and suffered shell shock. He wasn’t ready to return home at first so they sent him to Casablanca to play in a military band. Eventually he went home and married my grandmother and they are still alive today. His stories really affected me and I am envious for things he feels nostalgic for. By recreating things from his past I can borrow his nostalgia and have my own history with it.

Mangiardi: How did you come up with the title for your show New York Be Nice?

Morgin: I’m scared to have a show here! You know the stereotype of NY being a rough city and my work has a certain kind of sweetness and softness to it but like me it’s also missing teeth. Stereotypes can be both very correct and very incorrect and when Zach asked me a title is was the first thing that came into my head.

Mangiardi: Can you talk about The Wrecked Spyder, a recreation of 550 Porsche Spyder?

Morgin: The car was bought by James Dean, a famous actor and race car driver. It was rumored to be cursed and a week after he purchased the car he was driving it, gets into an accident and dies. Some of the pieces of the car are sold and these pieces are involved in more accidents.

Mangiardi: Like the car is possessed?

Morgin: Yes! The car is eventually sold to the highway patrol and put on view to promote safety but is still gets in accidents falling off ramps, breaking someone’s legs. Eventually the car it transported and just disappears in transit. My idea was to bring back my own version and play with idea of resurrecting the curse.

Mangiardi: Speaking of things disappearing there is fragility to your sculptures, their insides are exposed and surfaces worn suggesting the toll of time and rooting the objects in both past and present. Why is this significant to you?

Morgin: I make objects equally or more delicate to the original because both things are fleeting things. They are difficult to support and a metaphor for mortality. The things you really want to keep in this world you will.


Kristen Morgin, "Smokey Loves You Sugar Dancer", 2010
Wood, wire, unfired painted clay, Large Horse: 43 x 54 x 20 inches, Small Horse: 23 x 25 x 13 inches
Courtesy, the artist

Kristen Morgin, "Untitled (Mail Table)", 2010
Wood, paper, unfired painted clay, 48 x 32 x 30 inches
Courtesy, the artist

Kristen Morgin, "Wrecked Spyder", 2010
Wood, wire, unfired clay, 82 x 46 x 41 inches
Courtesy, the artist



Katherine Mangiardi

Katherine Mangiardi is an artist and writer based in New York. She holds an MFA in Painting from RISD and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She can be contacted at kmangiardi@gmail.com

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